3 images of a traditional cream tea

Cream Tea, jam or cream first?

Devon or a Cornish cream tea?

The counties of Devon and Cornwall have always enjoyed a neighbourly rivalry. One of their most infamous disputes is on the best way to create the perfect cream tea. The famous ‘Cream Tea’ will always combine tea, scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream. Devonians claim that layered delicious clotted cream first with a blob of strawberry jam on top is the only way to do it. The Cornish argue that jam should be spread first, followed by a huge dollop of scrumptious clotted cream on top.  Who’s right? How do you have yours?

Being born in and a proud resident of Devon but with Cornish ancestry also coursing through my veins I often wonder where my vote lies. Dare I admit …delicious jam with the crowning clotted cream glory wins for me!

Most people would agree, that both are delicious, especially with a locally baked scone and rich clotted cream from either county’s lush pastures. Added to one of the many stunning local jams produced in the region, a good west country cream tea is one of life’s true pleasures and a must for all visitors.

Arm wrestle over jam or cream first for a traditional cream tea

Tavistock the true home of the cream tea?

Just twenty-five minutes from our lodges the wonderful local town of Tavistock makes the bold (and possibly true) claim to be “the true home of the cream tea”.

Legend has it that a simplified version was served by the monks of Tavistock Abbey over a thousand years ago, to labourers and passers-by. With no tea or sugar available in the country for centuries the cream tea would likely have evolved from something more rustic – a simple bread with cream and most probably some honey. Over the centuries it would have evolved and it is rumoured that in the 1840’s the Duchess of Bedford (of Tavistock) made taking afternoon tea with the then-popular scone, jam and cream, a fashionable habit. As tourism started to thrive, Devon then became famous for this speciality.

Whether Tavistock is the true home of the cream tea or not, we’re happy to believe it absolutely might be. And there’s no doubt you can get one of the best cream teas in one of Tavistock’s many delightful cafes. It is a town well worth a visit, for all sorts of reasons, but certainly to sample and enjoy a local Devon cream tea!

As to the dispute, jam or cream first? Undoubtedly this is something these two beautiful counties of Devon and Cornwall will never, ever agree upon! However, it reported that Queen Elizabeth II decreed that it was Jam first at Buckingham Palace garden parties!

Cream teas laid out at Devon Lake Lodge

National Cream Tea Day, 28th June 2024

The Cream Tea Society organise a National Cream Tea Day each year, organised by Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream and Wilkin and Sons Tiptree to raise money for many charities so having a cream tea on the day will not only be a wonderful experience, you will be helping to support a worthy cause. If you can’t celebrate on the day, Tavistock is holding a Cream Tea week from Saturday 22nd – Sunday 30th June. The following will be serving a Devon Cream Tea:

Although not strictly a cream tea, the nearby Strawberry Fields Farm Shop offer an afternoon picnic, where booking is essential. However, they also sell all the essential ingredients for a fabulous cream tea to take back to your Devon Lake Lodge and enjoy on your patio between dips in your hot tub!

Afternoon tea etiquette

What makes up a traditional cream tea?

  • Freshly made scones
  • Local strawberry jam
  • Clotted cream (never whipped!)
  • Tea (whilst not traditional, non-tea drinkers can get away with a coffee!)

How to eat your cream tea

Load your plate with the desired amount of jam and clotted cream, using the supplied teaspoons, no double-dipping! Now take your fresh warm scone, and break it in half with your fingers, so you have a top and bottom. Heap it with the jam and cream. But be mindful that you do it as per your locality so as not to offend the locals! A Devonshire cream tea is clotted cream first, and a Cornish cream tea is jam before the cream! And enjoy!

What type of tea should I use?

Purists will suggest that black loose tea should be used as it’s generally of higher quality than a tea bag and imparts the best flavour, such as English Breakfast, Darjeeling or Assam. Normally Earl Grey and herbal teas are not traditionally used.

How to make a good pot of tea

  1. Warm the teapot with a small amount of hot water, this ensures the tea leaves unfurl evenly and release the optimal flavour.
  2. Measure the loose-leaf tea (one teaspoon per person or tea bag if you prefer) into the warmed teapot.
  3. Boil the kettle with freshly drawn water.
  4. Pour the water over the tea leaves and leave it to “draw” or steep, this allows the tea leaves to release their flavours and oils into the water, resulting in a more complex and balanced taste. The longer you leave it, the higher the level of antioxidants called flavonoids.
  5. When ready, use a tea strainer to pour the tea into the cup.

Milk or tea first?

You pour tea first followed by milk.

Evelyn Waugh, the 20th-century novelist reportedly wrote in his diary on the concept of a ‘milk-in-first’. “People who could only afford cheap porcelain put the milk in beforehand to avoid cracking their cups with boiling water.”

Debrett’s rules on stirring tea

This is done noiselessly in a back-and-forth motion from the 12 o’clock to six o’clock position is permissible. Clockwise is seen as a crime! Always replace the teaspoon on the saucer, unless going for, god-forbid, the mug option!

Whatever your preference, loose tea, teabag or even coffee, a cream tea is simply the most divine experience no matter the location or time of year, you don’t need to wait until National Cream Tea day!


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